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Archive for June, 2010

A better basket

Posted by Alex | June 30th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized


Here in Portland, a string of sunny days is beginning to make it look like last week’s official start to summer might just be the real thing: that time of year when the skies clear, we take off the fenders and try to store up a year’s worth vitamin-D in three months.


For getting around in style this summer, check out this beautifully designed bike basket from Faris Elmasu. I mean, is there anything that doesn’t look good made out of laminated veneer? A clever peg-and-grove nylon strap system secures everything from your laptop to a sixpack to a flowerpot to the front of your bike, leaving your back pack-free and strap-sweat-less. Making it that much easier to leave the car parked and get where you’re going out in the sun.

(via Swissmiss)

The Design Eye: Looking At The Grant For Change Nominees

Posted by Alex | June 29th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized


With over 120 nominees for the 2010 Grant for Change now in the bucket, and voting in full swing, we asked Nau designer Peter Kallen to share with us what he looks for in good design, and what will influence his vote for one of this year’s nominees

TTK: What is good design to you?
Peter: To me, design is about communicating an idea. It’s a little like making a sentence: you choose words that communicate a thought, a feeling or an idea, whether just for a moment or for the bigger picture. At Nau, our idea was to prove that a company could do well by doing good, and we did that by first designing a business, and then turning to the more literal sense of what our designs were going to look like. But in that too, it was about how they were going to express who we are as a company. So design is about how you communicate with people, and everyone in this world has a sense of design responsibility.

TTK: Do you think design is inherently positive?
Peter: No, definitely not. Design isn’t always positive; that’s why it has enormous responsibilities. It’s what creates change, whether it’s good or bad. Design has a dark side: you think about a gun. It’s designed, and mechanically speaking that design is genius. But the result of that design is to kill or maim.

TTK: In your eyes, what’s the Grant For Change about?
Peter: I think the Grant For Change exists to sift through all those different aspects of design and bring to the surface those projects that are considered and good and transformative, that can become agents of positive change. And that can take many forms. Good design comes in a lot of different shapes; it’s not just engineering or architecture or graphic. It could be a poet: think of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech; he designed that speech to bring hope and bring a brigade of people to life, so to speak. So it doesn’t have to be an object; design can be brought to the surface in a multitude of forms. So I hope the G4C can help bring up the conversation around concept of design and what it means in the world.

TTK: What will you be looking for as you sift through the nominees?
Peter: I’ll be looking at the intent behind each one and what they’re trying to do. So it’s not about the object first, it’s about the intent. It doesn’t have to be something that’s going to change the world we live in, but it has to have the guts to survive; it has to have its own life. I want to see people challenging conventional thought and understand why they’re trying to change something. Once I see that intent, then I can dissect the object, and ask: did they finesse it? Did the passion and consideration of their idea flow through the form of the object? I want to see the depth of their initial thought, and then see all the little ingredients they chose to execute it well.

TTK: What do you hope the end result of the Grant For Change will be?
Peter: I hope that the Grant For Change opens up people’s idea of what design can be. And then I hope the submissions show us how to challenge ourselves to create good design. You know, there are so many things out there, but so few good things. So personally, I’m looking to be inspired by design that’s just enough, not too much, and as a result incredibly powerful. I want to see someone blow my mind; I’m really hoping to see that.

Education in the US: Waiting For Superman

Posted by Alex | June 28th, 2010 | Filed under Design, Positive Change

While I’m a sucker for good infographics in any context, they’re particularly powerful when employed to give perspective to an issue as critical as education. For this trailer to Waiting For Superman, an upcoming documentary from the director of An Inconvenient Truth on the need to reshape education in America—animator Jorge R. Canedo Estrada of Buck engaged with some pretty sobering statistics. The results are powerful.

(via Vimeo).

It’s summer, but…

Posted by Alex | June 25th, 2010 | Filed under Bikes

4707674534_7003b8d69aNatalie at Sweetpea offers some guidance to those of us in rainy climes who are tempted, after a string of sunny days, to throw caution to the wind and believe that summer is here to stay.

If the left half of this chart applies to you, don’t forget to pedal your bike, with or without fenders, over to 525 NW 10th Ave (between Hoyt & Glisan) for the Nau Warehouse Sale, going on thru Sunday.

(via Sweetpea Bicycles.)

A Coal-Fired Wasteland

Posted by admin | June 22nd, 2010 | Filed under Environmental Change

Fossil fuels pollute enough when used the way they are intended to be — burned cars, planes, power plants, etc. The Gulf oil blow-out disaster is getting plenty of attention as it works up to ravaging the Gulf coastal and marine eco-systems. Here’s a look at a forgotten disaster. In 1960 Centralia, Pennsylvania was bustling center of the US coal mining industry. Today is a wasteland — a de facto ghost town. Check out this video to see what a HALF CENTURY-LONG COAL MINE FIRE does to a city. How would you like to be the mayor trying to put together a carbon emission reduction plan?

Six Items or Less

Posted by Alex | June 21st, 2010 | Filed under Personal Reflection, Positive Change

Screen shot 2010-06-21 at 9.41.39 PM

At Nau, we’ve always asked our designs to do more than just one thing. The idea that a single jacket should be able to move from the bike to the office to the bar was one of the original design principles that we launched with, and it carries through the execution of pieces like the Chrysalis Dress, the Vice Blazer and many others.

Screen shot 2010-06-21 at 9.42.41 PMSo we were interested to learn of a few folks who are taking the idea doing more with less a bit further. Today, a group of ninety-six people from around the world began an experiment to see what happens when you pare down your wardrobe to just six items. The project, Six Items Or Less, has exceptions for underwear, workout clothing and raincoats; but even so, pledging to go a month with just a handful of clothes poses some interesting questions about our relationship to what we wear.

Of course, there are plenty of people around the world who get by on fewer than six items for much longer than a month. But in our culture of ready to wear and disposable fashion, it’s interesting to challenge the assumption that we need a closet full of clothes. But more than a post-consumerist statement, pairing back might have other, more personal impacts as well: Kimberly, who turned us on to this site, also sent along this post from one of Six Items or Less founder, alias Uberblond, on how the designer Tom Ford, among others, would pick one outfit to wear for a season so he could focus on designing. Is it possible that what we wear is less about self expression and more about self-distraction?

What do you think? Could you get by on six items for a month? A year? Follow the experiment at sixitemsorless.com, and post what you’d pick for your six items in the comments below.

(hat tip to Kimberly F)

The Big Caption

Posted by Alex | June 17th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

Typography + Images from The Big Picture = Win.

Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 11.14.10 AM

Check out The Big Caption, an amusing mashup of Boston.com’s wonderful photographic feature “The Big Picture” with pithy witticisms overlaid in bold fonts. Fun addition to the daily feed.

A Parable

Posted by Alex | June 16th, 2010 | Filed under Art, Sustainability

(via Vimeo)

Frank Gehry on sustainability and the future of Green Building

Posted by Alex | June 15th, 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized


Frank Gehry, the architect of the Bilbao Guggenheim, the Seattle Experience Music Project and other iconic buildings that eschew right angles and vertical walls, caught some flack recently for calling ‘B.S.’ on LEED—the U.S. Green Building Council’s certification system for sustainability. “A lot of LEEDs are given for bogus stuff,” he said in an interview with Thomas Pritzker, chairman of the Pritzker Foundation (which awards the eponymous prize). “A lot of the things they do really don’t save energy.” On smaller projects, he said, “the costs of incorporating those kind of things don’t pay back in your lifetime.”

Predictably, Gehry’s comments raised a bit of a firestorm—slamming one of the canonical pillars of 21st century sustainability certification will do that—and he dialed back the intensity of his criticism in a subsequent interview with PBS’s‘s Abby Leonard. It’s worth a read, as he goes on to give his thoughts on sustainability in general, and how design can help address the threat of global climate change—which he described as “a crisis…we have to address if we want to survive on this planet.”

(via Treehugger)

G4C: Extended Nomination Period

Posted by admin | June 11th, 2010 | Filed under Grant for Change


Last month we launched our second annual Grant for Change, a $10,000 grant designed to support those who instigate lasting, positive change in their communities.

This month we are extending the nomination period.

Nominations are open to the public ‘til June 24th, with voting open ‘til July 6th. We’d like you to get involved. There are three easy ways to do it: you can Nominate, Learn, or Vote. That simple.

This year’s theme: DESIGN.

Design as a tool for positive change.

Design that challenges assumptions about the way even the most basic things are done.

Grant applicants could be designing an object, a building, a landscape, a system, a concept, or even an experience. There are a million and one different ways to use design for change, and we want to hear about them all.

We have included this poster, simply to get you inspired. Hang it up. Pass it on. And spread the word: $10,000 for those who are designing for change.